Want to take a class called “Arctic backpacking”—for credit? How about “Field Methods of Glaciology”? There’s nowhere in America to do it but, of course, Alaska. A mere hundred miles from the entrance to Denali Wilderness and surrounded on the map by big green patches, U.A.F. proffers access to the wild world at its most basic and pure.
Fairbanks isn’t for everyone, though. The longest winter days promise no more than four hours of sun, and temperatures regularly dip to negative 20 degrees Farenheit. The upshot, however, is encompassed in two mighty, magical words: Aurora Borealis.
U.A.F.’s five remote satellite campuses are hubs for the outdoor research the school’s known for—it’s no coincidence that Mark Myers, a recent director of the U.S. Geological Survey, is an alum.
A minor called “Guiding Management,” a program called “Wilderness Leadership,” and the Wood rec center all offer classes that Nanooks can take for credit, including expedition rafting, rock climbing, winter camping, bike maintenance and repair, ski mountaineering, and ice climbing (the description of which says, “This is a perfect opportunity to try something some people never dream of doing”). Students can also get belay-certified to practice their edging and pinching on an indoor climbing wall and an outdoor tower, take advantage of a free bike-loan and -fix clinic, and look forward to a ropes course coming soon.
Wilderness outings are affordable; favorites include a berry-picking day hike on local trails, a whitewater raft trip on the Class II/III Nenana River, and a granite-tors overnight. An excellent selection of equipment is available for rent (including $35-per-day canoes), and it’s broken into three categories: summer gear, winter gear—and avalanche gear.
CONTACT: (907) 474-7211, uaf.edu
STUDENT BODY: 8,652 undergraduates, 1,203 graduates
TUITION: residents $6,075, nonresidents $17,715, room and board $6,960